It's World Mental Health Week and my focus this week is on the second habit of happiness, that is kindness, and more specifically, random acts of kindness. We know there can be a strong urge to withdraw and protect ourselves in times of stress and challenge, especially in a world where most people are tuned out and feeling isolated, so take some time to tune in. Sometimes, reaching out can be the best antidote, not in a calculated way but coming straight from the heart. The Chinese call it SHU, the ability to see oneself in someone else's shoes; it's a practice of Thoughtful Kindness that helps us to flourish.
Research illustrates that this generosity of spirit benefits your health immensely. In fact, giving or being kind to others releases a cocktail of chemicals similar to euphoria. These include endorphins, dopamine and endocannabinoids, helping to release stress, anxiety and depression. Scientific research from 2008 has also identified that people who spent their money on gifts for others or by giving to charities were much happier; this, however, doesn't relate to the amount, it has more to do with the act itself.
Random acts of kindness can be big or small, giving someone your seat, a smile, constructive listening (your undivided, focused attention), saying hello to someone on the street and smiling, or an unconditional foot rub when the day has been overwhelming. A call to check in and ask, are you okay? Stress is naturally released by engaging in more gestures that release these happy molecules. In addition, your health increases with activities like volunteering through more daily activity, especially if it is regular; it has both physical and emotional benefits and nourishes your soul connection.
The key is that these are not necessarily grand gestures but small, conscious acts of graciousness, conviviality and selflessness. However, don't make the people you volunteer for feel powerless or pitied - help them feel part of the experience and gain warmth and connectedness whilst filling your heart with unconditional love; it's a win, win !
Today choose a Radom Act of Kindness
- Buy someone a coffee.
- Pay it forward; give someone a helping hand.
- Take time to understand someone's story.
- Volunteer at a food bank or shelter.
- Let someone go ahead of you in a queue.
- Give someone you know who is struggling a lift with a foot or hand massage.
- Smile at a stranger.
“It takes courage to be kind”.